SHANGHAI — Mike Brown brushes his teeth in the same pattern and rhythm every day, irons dress shirts straight from the dry cleaners and color codes practice reports.
Normally, just the thought of going three consecutive days in the preseason without practice — something the Warriors did this week — would grate on the admittedly obsessive Brown. But Golden State’s associate head coach has the benefit of hindsight: Back in the Far East a decade after he took the Cavaliers to China as a head coach, Brown recognizes that there is no need to fret over matters out of the team’s control.
“We know we’re going to be a few steps behind, and you just kind of have to live with it,” Brown said Saturday. “We just do the best we can. Without forcing the issue, (head coach) Steve (Kerr) is trying to get in as much basketball-related stuff as he can. But it’s tough to really get anything accomplished because there’s a lot of things that take your attention out here.”
The Warriors agreed to devote half of their preseason to playing two exhibitions in China for the chance to build relationships — with fans, as well as companies — in the NBA’s largest international market. But in spending a week nearly 7,000 miles from the Bay Area, Golden State sacrificed valuable time to prepare to defend its NBA title.
Its itinerary in China has been filled with community events, photo opportunities with corporate sponsors, media responsibilities, autograph signings and sightseeing tours.
Along the way, the Warriors have only practiced twice since touching down Monday night in Shenzhen. A flight delay forced Golden State to cancel its first workout in China and endure three days without practice — an anomaly during a time of year geared toward getting ready for the regular season.
It also hasn’t helped that, thanks to the jet leg that comes with jumping ahead 15 hours, many players are still only sleeping in one- or two-hour intervals. In Thursday’s exhibition against Minnesota in Shenzhen, the Warriors appeared fatigued as they let a tie game late in the third quarter devolve into a 111-97 loss.
“This has been a great experience,” Kerr said, “but this is not the way to prepare for a season.”
Though this is Kerr’s first time bringing a team to China, Brown is well-versed on the challenges that come with such a trip.
In 2007, when he took Cleveland to play Orlando in exhibitions in Shanghai and Macao, Brown tried to cram video study and drills into any available free time. It didn’t take him long to realize that all the added obligations of being in China made fruitful practices difficult to come by. In retrospect, Brown wishes he had spent more time letting players enjoy their trip and less time teaching them his defensive system.
The key difference this go-around, however, is that the Warriors have far less time to prepare for the games that matter. To limit the amount of travel-heavy stretches in the regular season, the NBA trimmed its preseason slate this year from eight games to four or five.
Worried his team was falling behind schedule, Kerr worked Golden State through a two-and-a-half-hour practice Friday. It eased some of his concerns to see players focused and diligent despite all the outside distractions they’ve faced in China.
The good news for the Warriors is that they’re as equipped as any team in the league to weather interruptions in preseason. Unlike last year, when it spent training camp incorporating six players — including Kevin Durant — into Kerr’s movement-heavy system, Golden State must only get its three newcomers who are on guaranteed contracts — Nick oung, Omri Casspi and Jordan Bell — acclimated to the team’s playing style.
“If this had been last year, I would’ve been a little worried,” point guard Shaun Livingston said. “But this year being a kind of similar team from last year, I don’t expect it to have any real impact.”
As for Mike Brown? Even a man who worries when he finds a wrinkle in his dress shirt isn’t concerned. After returning Sunday night to Oakland, the Warriors have nine days until their regular-season opener to make up for the practice time they lost in China.
“A couple extra days of practice is not going to make or break your team,” Brown said.